woman looking at distant blurred city lights

How Houston Area Women's Center Fights Domestic Violence in a Pandemic

The Houston Area Women's Center is rooted in the belief that all people deserve equal access to political, legal, economic, and social rights. Established in 1977, the center began as a place for women to access the resources they needed to escape abusive situations. The following year, it opened its first shelter, and in the decades to come it would expand to offer psychological support, a legal clinic, a 24-hour support center, and more.

Today, it harnesses its influence and experience to offer holistic support to anyone who has suffered abuse or sexual violence. The staff at HAWC envision a world where domestic and sexual violence are a thing of the past, as opposed to the daily reality that they currently are for many.

drawing of a computer screen showing a pair of hands sheltering a woman

Providing Survivors with Quality Care

Around 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States will experience some kind of physical violence by an intimate partner. In Texas, 75 percent of 16-24-year-olds (PDF) have either experienced dating violence themselves or know someone who has. In the U.S. at large, homicides committed by intimate partners are on the rise. HAWC is dedicated to the safety and recovery of these victims. In 2019, it helped 963 people find safe shelter, enabled over 4,000 to receive counseling, and assisted almost 2,000 with court services.

The services provided by HAWC include a hotline, survivor empowerment services, and violence prevention and culture change programs. The hotline is the first port of call for people in crisis, providing access to safe shelter and medical attention, as well as a trauma-informed needs assessment. The survivor empowerment services are designed to help survivors live independent lives. The violence prevention and culture change programs seek to break the cycle of violence. They do this through community outreach and training in order to create a society more aware of domestic violence and eventually prevent it from happening.

Using Technology to Combat Abuse

For about a year, HAWC has been using Veritas for its data backup. George Santayana, director of IT at the center, tells us that they have found it user-friendly and easy to set up. "That's what we're looking for here," he says, "something that's easy to use and effective." Its easy interaction with Amazon Web Services allows HAWS to fulfill its compliance needs in a cost-effective manner, freeing up more of its budget to fuel essential services for survivors.

While most data never leaves the site, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team at HAWC to prepare the organization to go entirely online. They had one weekend to prepare their organization to work remotely. Now they are adjusting their strategies to make remote work a viable long-term solution for as long as the situation persists. Their staff was almost entirely based out of the physical office until this point, so they were forced to move quickly and creatively. They sought out tools that allowed them to continue their usual operations, while attempting to mitigate an increase in demand for their services.

HAWC staff members use a VPN to ensure that employees have access to all of the right documents and accounts. But a remote workforce increases the need for top-tier data protection and secure backup. This is a particular concern for organizations that store large amounts of personal information. Veritas provides nonprofits like HAWC with the security they need to work from home without risking the personal information.

Veritas mitigates these risks by maintaining a safe backup of the data. If an organization is attacked by malware, it can recover reliably and quickly recover any data lost. And, in the event of a ransomware attack, an organization will be able to avoid paying large sums of money to regain its data, since it's all backed up securely, out of the reach of any attacker.


Making Vital Services Accessible

By using Veritas, the Houston Area Women's Center is able to protect its data and fulfill its compliance needs. Due to TechSoup's donation program, they ensure that as much of their budget as possible goes directly towards supporting victims of abuse. They continue to grow as an organization and to innovate new ways of helping victims of abuse to find healing and purpose as survivors.

Additional Resources